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Gay-Straight Alliance holds anti-bullying rally

By Nancy Lavin
On March 1, 2012

  • Students, faculty and staff sing ‘When You Find Yourself Offended’ at the ‘Love is Louder’ anti-bullying rally held yesterday in the Memorial Union Atrium. Teresa Kelly

 

The University of Rhode Island Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) teamed up with the  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Center to hold a rally protesting harassment and cyberbullying.

More than 40 students, faculty and staff came to the "Love is Louder" rally held in Atrium 1 of the Memorial Union on Wednesday. The rally was held in response to a series of derogatory Facebook posts on the URI Class of 2013 page.

"This individual, or group, made a fake account to post not just homophobic remarks, but ones that were racist, misogynist, sexist and bigoted," president of  GSA Brian Sit said. "It's important that we show the students on our campus that we're not alone in our struggles, and we're not alone in our support."

Sit was one of the principle organizers behind the rally, working to delegate responsibilities and also heading the graphic design aspects of the protest.

The university suspects that the person or group responsible for the comments is not from the university. URI President David M. Dooley, who spoke at the rally, said if the administration discovers that a university student is responsible, he or she will be held accountable.

Dooley also warned students that the anonymity that Facebook creates can be dangerous.

"We are not anonymous to one another," he said. "We're here because we want to know each other, to have a relationship with one another, to work together to build a community in which each one of our members is not merely tolerated…where people are welcomed, where they're allowed to be their authentic selves."

Sit said he agreed, explaining that URI is lucky to have such a strong support group on campus.

"It's great to have people who are willing to use the university slogan, ‘Think Big,' not just about themselves, but those around them," he said. "No man is an island and when one of us gets hurt, it's all of us."

In addition to the university, Sit said several student groups, such as eXposure and the Asian Student Association, vocalized support for the protest and its message.

Chief Diversity Officer Abu Bakr also attended the rally, speaking to students about his personal and professional experiences regarding the importance of non-violence.

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, he said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Bakr added that it is situations like these when the character of individuals and of the university as a whole is truly judged.

"We are always faced with a very difficult choice," he said. "First is to do the easy thing, and that is to strike back with the very weapon that has been used against us. What is much more difficult, infinitely, is to strike back with a force that's ultimately much more powerful and brings people together instead of tearing people apart."

In addition to the administration, students and faculty were eager to vocalize their support.

"This is a very important issue for me because I've known a lot of people who've gone through bullying, and I've gone through it myself," senior Ben Migrete said. "It's a very personal issue, it's a horrible thing."

Campus police Maj. Stephen Baker added that he thought it was important for the university to have a rally protesting what happened and he was glad to be a part of it.

"We quite often get the calls when bad things happen, but we also want to be involved in helping to make things better," he said.

Sit concluded the rally by encouraging students to counter the negative comments with a positive attitude.

"What we can do is show that love is louder, that love more than anything can overcome all these hateful things," he said.


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